by Matthew Davies
The Fifth World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees begins today in Rome. The programme will include various conferences on the current situation of migrants and refugees in the world and will focus on existing pastoral challenges, the Church’s vision on human mobility, its mission in a multicultural or intercultural society and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.
The Most Revd Ian George, Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide, Australia, and Convenor of the Anglican Communion's Refugee and Migrant Network (ACRMN), is attending the congress as a fraternal delegate. He explains that provinces of the Anglican Communion have been actively involved in advocacy for refugees and migrants but ACRMN has unfortunately held infrequent global gatherings as a result of lack of funds. Archbishop George urges churches to show a greater sense of moral urgency [to the current situation] and to speak out against insular and sinful attitudes
Delegates representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the World Lutheran Federation and the World Council of Churches will also participate in this week’s conference.
The Fourth World Congress, which took place in 1998, dealt with “Migration at the Threshold of the Third Millennium” and Pope John Paul II expressed the hope that the analyses, decisions and proposals made during the Congress “would be an effective stimulus for those who, in the Church and in society, share in this concern for migrants and refugees.”
As a follow-up to the Congress, the Pontifical Council organised four Regional Meetings (Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, America) of National Directors for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, which concluded with a World Meeting. All these meetings aimed to find out how the local Churches were actually responding to the situation and determine ways by which they could be more effective in the pastoral field.
The Vatican describes migration as an age-old phenomenon adding that “modern-day global phenomena have encouraged its increase, even to the point of being unmanageable, and beyond reasonable control”. Violence, war, terrorism and violation of human rights have all triggered the movement of refugees.
This week’s congress, the theme of which is “Starting Afresh from Christ. Towards a New Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees”, concludes on Saturday 22 November with a General Assembly for the presentation of the workshop results and the final document, which will include prospects and suggestions for the future.